On the Road
If a book is not worth reading twice, it is not worth reading once

When the book first hit the public, in 1957, it really hit the public.  At first sight this book was telling the story of a group of American youths that went from the East Coast to the West Coast and back with seemingly no purpose other than the purpose of getting drunk, getting stoned, and getting laid.  Just in case anyone thought a setting like this needed additional salt and pepper, Jack Kerouac had put in some con-artist tricks, crazy driving and hints of homosexuality.  The public was happily shocked.  Following this and other books that shook standardized traditional society, the world was getting ready for the hippie era, and it had its manifesto.
I first read Kerouac’s book when Woodstock had already happened and was well out of fashion. There was no more novelty in youths frolicking around in stolen cars getting drunk, stoned and laid.   Video recordings from Woodstock and Allen Ginsberg being naughty in court were already well seated in archives.  What was then the big deal with this book if the story and the lifestyle were already demodé? Continua a leggere On the Road
If a book is not worth reading twice, it is not worth reading once

Best in London right now

Well, not everything and not always, of course, but quite. At least in the past month. October 5th was the 50th anniversary of the first 007 movie installment, Dr. No, and the James Bond Day. The last cinematic adventure of the iconic secret agent, Skyfall, is being released in these very days, featuring the title song from top English singer of the moment, Adele. Daniel Craig is back as agent 007, facing the Spanish Oscar-winning actor Javier Bardem as the villain. His weird blond hairstyle is currently stunning underground passengers, together with the dangerous glamour of the current Bond girls, Bérénice Marlohe and Naomie Harris from the moving advertising panels, while Craig/Bond is looking at you from the double-deckers all around the city. There’s really no escape from him, and I bet a lot of women are pretty happy with this- and they’re not the only ones. Continua a leggere Best in London right now

Prometheus by Ridley Scott

The enjoyment of the new Ridley Scott flick,  Prometheus, depends greatly on which one of the three kinds of public you fall into.  The first is a well-informed  moviegoer that knows the film is a prequel to the famous Alien saga.  The second – where I happened to  belong – gathers distracted 35+ viewers that think mixing Ridley Scott, sci-fi, a sophisticated title and 3D technology should, at the very least, bring a movie as memorable and groundbreaking as Scott’s 1980 Blade Runner.  The third group is the very young’s realm, those for whom Alien and Blade Runner are titles on the VOD “vintage sci-fi” section.  Continua a leggere Prometheus by Ridley Scott

Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami

In the spring of her twenty-second year, Sumire fell in love for the first time in her life. An intense love, a veritable tornado sweeping across the plains—flattening everything in its path, tossing things up in the air, ripping them to shreds, crushing them to bits. The tornado’s intensity doesn’t abate for a second as it blasts across the ocean, laying waste to Angkor Wat, incinerating an Indian jungle, tigers and all, transforming itself into a Persian desert sandstorm, burying an exotic fortress city under a sea of sand. In short, a love of truly monumental proportions. The person she fell in love with happened to be seventeen years older than Sumire. And was married. And, I should add, was a woman. This is where it all began, and where it all wound up. Almost.

Thus begins this novel by Murakami which muses upon the question of love.  It’s about love and death and hits you straight in the heart.  It starts off as being light and carefree, then propels us into a mysterious drama.  However, it is not a dark book, let’s just say that it’s rather difficult to classify. But then again, books by this inscrutable Japanese author always are.  Continua a leggere Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami

The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas

It is a classic case of ‘ the final straw that breaks the camel’s back.’  Otherwise, you couldn’t see how such a simple and not overly cruel action could awaken and uncover so many social and racial conflicts, betrayals, frustrations and weaknesses.
The Slap
by Christos Tsiolkas is set in multicultural Australia: a place in which Greeks, English, Indians, Muslims and Australians live together.  And who better to tell this story than Tsiolkas, a Greek-Australian from the land of the kangaroos?
The story starts with Hector, Ectora to his Greek relatives, who, one late summer’s day, turns 40 years old.  Together with his Indian wife Aisha, he decides to organize a barbecue to celebrate.  Everything seems to be going well: the sun is warm but not uncomfortably so, the air is fresh, the grass is green, the food is delicious and there is a camaraderie and passion between the husband and wife.  But the characters that Tsiolkas depicts are not picture-perfect from a world away, they are effectively examples of flawed souls to be found anywhere.  And so we have Hector: he’s good-looking, has a nice house, a flash car, a fulfilling job and a sexy wife.  He takes an interest in 17 year-old Connie, an assistant at his wife’s veterinary practice, and it is an interest which is anything but platonic.
The multicultural guests arrive along with their children.  They bring gifts. They talk about this and that.  Everything seems ideally perfect: at a barbecue punctuated by the frequent sound of beer cans being opened and conflicts diffused by sausages and steaks.  Hector even finds the time to flirt with Connie, regardless of the presence of so many prying eyes.  But let’s hear what Tsiolkas has to say…   Continua a leggere The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Selznick and Scorsese

It is not a graphic novel, it isn’t an illustrated book, neither a simple novel. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (relative of David O. Selznick, producer of King Kong, Gone With the Wind, Rebecca and of an infinite list of movies from Hollywood golden age) is a “novel by words and images”. It’s such an uncommon book to need a specific definition.
The novel opens with a series of pencil illustrations, an elegant, mellow and evocative black and white. Then written pages appear and then again the drawings, still at whole page, broken up by the written narrative. And the matter starts to get complicated: since images don’t describe what words express, but enrich the written word, integrating and completing it. And here’s the heart-shaped key of Selznick’s extraordinary invention: the continuous weaving between words and images constantly changes nature because there are things that words, describing them, impoverish and other things that images cannot explain. Selznick handles this mirror game in an exemplary way.  Continua a leggere The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Selznick and Scorsese

Shame by Steve McQueen

If it’s true that happy families are all alike and that every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, it’s also true that if addictions are all similar, every story of addiction deserves its own telling. Here the family is compo- sed by a brother and a sister, each more desperate than the other. The apparently successful new-yorker professional, Brandon (Michael Fassbender, winner of the Coppa Volpi at the 2011 Venice Film Festival for this role), is in reality affected by sex addiction unravelled by one night stands, prostitutes, pornographic movies and magazines all overloading his aseptic house and even his office computer. A daily poisoning, ruled in a paradoxical and lucidly organized absence of real exchange with anyone. This life, made of an insane equilibrium in perversion, is suddenly changed when his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) settles in his apartment for some days.  Continua a leggere Shame by Steve McQueen